Sep. 17, 2018

Sustainability Drives the Superfresh Growers Harvest

Superfresh Growers® is harvesting excellent apples and pears with peak flavors this fall. Many say it is the best flavor and texture in years. To excel in quality, sustainability drives the plans and actions of the Superfresh Growers team. The farm team continues to excel in optimizing water usage, minimizing chemical inputs, preserving arable land, and reducing waste.

“We are passionate about preserving our agricultural investments for generations to come, reports Catherine Gipe-Stewart, Communications Manager. “We reduce water usage to optimize this bountiful resource we enjoy in the Pacific Northwest. We minimize agrochemical inputs to soften our impact on the land and protect the biodiverse ecosystem that thrives in our conventional and organic orchards. Superfresh Growers reduces plastic usage in as many places as possible, from removing plastic twine and bin liners to designing innovative packaging. We invest in solar energy, harnessing the 300 days of sunshine we are blessed with in Central Washington State. We constantly work to eliminate waste from the orchards to the grocery shelf. All of these efforts are rewarding,” she adds.

We take multiple steps to respect the water that flows through our land, from minimizing water usage to ensuring adequate river flow for salmon.

Superfresh Growers water is sourced from the snow melt of the Cascade Mountains and is a critical resource to respect. “Though water is plentiful in the Pacific Northwest, Superfresh Growers takes multiple steps to regulate its use and ensure we respect the water that flows through our land,” explains Gipe-Stewart. Superfresh Growers orchards use drip irrigation, which cuts water usage by nearly 60% (versus overhead sprinklers). It also utilizes lean water practices in its orchards, remotely monitoring local soil moisture levels to ensure water is applied only to areas that need it. This combined effort leads to its goal of saving millions of gallons of water annually. In orchards near the Walla Walla River, Superfresh Orchards only uses 75% of its water rights to ensure adequate river flow for Bull Trout and Steelhead. Salmon have been successfully re-introduced after 100 years of being unable to travel up the Walla Walla River.

Superfresh Growers utilizes the best technology and growing practices to minimize agro-chemical inputs. “By the end of 2018, 90% of our packing lines will be organic certified, including lines that pack non-organic fruit. All chemicals used in our packing facilities are organic qualified, ensuring a softened impact on the earth,” Gipe-Stewart explains.

We are proud that 90% of our packing lines are organic certified.

In the orchards, Superfresh Growers is dedicated to building programs in many locations that can rely only on natural predators for pest control. This method is called integrated pest management (IPM). The hot days and fantastic nights of Central Washington deter pests, fungus, and disease, which creates an ideal environment to grow organics and reduce inputs needed for conventional fruit. By implementing IPM practices, Superfresh Growers uses “good bugs” to fight the “bad.” Lacewing, ladybugs, spiders, and parasitic wasps, among others, prey on aphids and other pests, minimizing reliance on insecticides. Pheromone inhibitors disrupt insects’ reproductive cycles, deterring codling moths and other unwanted pests.

The mighty ladybug is utilized to prey on aphids and other pests to balance the ecosystem within our orchards.

Superfresh Growers' efforts to preserve land and resources focus on reducing energy usage, plastic and waste reduction, and using top technology to monitor their resource usage. Its goal of maximizing renewable energy continues with a recent investment in rooftop solar panels. “We enjoy 300 days of sunshine a year here in Central Washington. Our controlled atmosphere's large, elevated flat roofs and packing facilities are ideal for capturing the sun's power. We started with 300 solar panels and will expand to produce hundreds of thousands of kilowatts per year,” reports CEO and fifth-generation farmer Robert Kershaw. What Superfresh Growers do not use will be delivered to local power grids.

Superfresh Growers recently transitioned from plastic twine to bamboo poles to support new tree growth. This pilot has removed six miles of plastic per acre across Superfresh Growers orchards. Additionally, it is eliminating poly bag liners from orchard apple bins. This pilot will remove five tons of plastic from its operations outside the gate. Superfresh Growers orchard blocks have solar-powered stations that evaluate soil moisture, soil temperature, ambient air temperature, weather, solar radiation, humidity, wind direction, and speed. This information model better manages canopy conditions, pests, disease, frost risk, and water optimization.

Reusable shadecloth benefits all of our sustainability efforts, from reducing pests to minimizing water usage.

Superfresh Growers is investing in shade cloth, which has benefits that touch on their sustainability efforts of optimizing water usage, minimizing inputs, and preserving productive land. Shade cloth naturally cools the orchards, removing the need for overhead cooling with sprinkler systems and providing sunburn protection. The shade cloth also protects the fruit from pests, specifically stink bugs, reducing the need for additional inputs. The fabric creates a microclimate for the trees to thrive in, with slightly cooler temperatures and higher humidity. These help improve tree health, especially during the hottest parts of the season when the trees usually shut down.

Superfresh Growers is proud to lead the sustainable production of the world's finest apples, pears, and cherries. It is the largest grower of organic pears in the northwest and continues to increase its acreage of organic apples. It is a vertically integrated agricultural organization specializing in farming, warehousing, sales, marketing, and logistic services.